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Is there a deeper picture that we are afraid to talk about?

(124 Posts)
speakout Sun 11-Mar-18 05:22:05

I have deep feminist views.But trying to understand the taboo surrounding sex differences.
I have been mulling over this issue in the past few weeks. My 17 yo DD is going through University application atm, hoping to do child nursing, but considering adult nursing too. So in the past month she has been attending interviews at different Universities for her courses. Often all day events, lots of group stuff, role play etc, usually involving 60 or so potential students at a time.
So in the past month over 4 Universities and meeting 200 fellow potential students she has met 4 males.
In her last interview for child nursing ( just been offered a place smile) there were zero males in a bunch of 70 potential students.
Can someone please help me understand this.

SusanBunch Sun 11-Mar-18 05:58:09

I don't think this is either a taboo or not spoken about. It is very well known that women do the overwhelming majority of caring work, both in the home and in a professional setting. When men enter the caring professions in higher numbers, this tends to be at a higher level, as doctors and surgeons.

Women are socialised their whole life to believe that they are above all caring and nurturing. Men are taught the opposite. People might say 'oh but nobody has ever told me I can't do X'. The messages about gender roles are so much more subtle than that and are basically ingrained into children from the time they are born. It really is no surprise that hardly any men want to go down a caring career path, because we do not value care, see it as a mark of success, or reward it properly.

I am not sure if you are suggesting that there are natural biological differences between men and women making women more inclined to care. I can't answer that and none of us can, without removing all the existing structures that artificially classify care as being women's work. If we made society completely equal and it turned out that women prefer care, then fair enough. But at the moment, we do not have an equal society and women have been indoctrinated into thinking that they are natural carers and men have been indoctrinated into thinking that they are not.

speakout Sun 11-Mar-18 06:27:56

OK I get that.
But how can we be sure that this it learned behaviour?

I gave up my career to be a SAHM.
I had a feeling deep in my boots that I did not want to use childcare and totally wanted to be the primary round the clock caregiver for my children.
My OH did not feel that way.He was happy to support my choices, but would have been equally happy to use a childminder/relative/nursery.

Have I been hoodwinked? Are my feelings simply due to conditioning?

OccasionalNachos Sun 11-Mar-18 06:34:25

Have I been hoodwinked? Are my feelings simply due to conditioning?

Impossible to truly separate IMO. We live in a society where women are expected to want to stay at home & the conditioning around that begins from a young age and is subtle. The choice you made is not a free choice.

speakout Sun 11-Mar-18 06:38:46

OccasionalNachos but then we are in a tangle about everything.
Is it wrong to hit people? Do we really need to wear clothes in public? Should we drown unwanted children?

The biological facts remain however. I carried my children. I breastfed for an unfashionable length of time. My OH was physically unable to do that. Society aside surely those biological truths have an impact on my nurturing feelings?

SusanBunch Sun 11-Mar-18 06:41:37

Well, as I said, we can't be sure until the current structures are dismantled and care has an absolutely equal value to other types of work. If you have been conditioned to believe something from birth, it does feel like it's natural and instinctive. It might be a biological fact, but you would never know until you removed the social conditioning.

It might also be something that is unique to certain people, regardless of their biological sex. Many women would want to return to work and would have no problem with using a childminder, like your DH. Some men may want to stay at home with the children. Just because you feel you want to stay at home does not mean that this is the 'womanly response' and your DH does not, so this is the 'manly response'. The problem is that women are continuously told that your response is the natural female response and that if they feel differently, they are not good mums etc. Men are continuously told that your DH's response is the default one. SAHDs are treated very differently to SAHMs because they break the boundary. They tend to be put on a pedestal. Women who don't want to do 24/7 childcare are seen as selfish.

It's dangerous to go down the route of believing in innate biological roles because it's very convenient how those biological roles have managed to keep women repressed since pretty much the dawn of time.

speakout Sun 11-Mar-18 06:48:57

It's dangerous to go down the route of believing in innate biological roles because it's very convenient how those biological roles have managed to keep women repressed since pretty much the dawn of time.

Only when we exist in a patriarchial society though. It's that which suppresses not any potential biological "norm". And I worry than we are in danger of thowing the baby out with the bathwater.
In our efforts to "degender" then we also desex and remove the inherent biological differences.
Take sleeping people.
When my babies were tiny I would wake at their every turn and whimper, attend to their needs. My OH while in the same proximity would sleep right through, wakening only to deafening cries.

Is that learned behaviour?

SusanBunch Sun 11-Mar-18 06:53:12

I carried my children. I breastfed for an unfashionable length of time. My OH was physically unable to do that. Society aside surely those biological truths have an impact on my nurturing feelings?

Yes, in your case I am sure they did. But the majority of the women on your DD's course won't have any children yet and won't have breastfed so their 'nurturing feelings' can't have been influenced by those biological processes. Why does the fact that women give birth and breastfeed mean that women are deemed to be responsible for lots of other types of care work that doesn't even require any breastfeeding? Am I really more suited towards nursing than a man just because my body has the capability of carrying a child? It's odd that my biology means that I am suited to the low-level jobs of washing someone's body, helping them dress, changing dressings etc, whereas a man is not. However, when it comes to diagnosing and treating the same person's body, perhaps even operating on it, suddenly men ARE suited to it. Could it just be that being a doctor is high status and being a nurse is lower status and the biology bit is just a convenient excuse to ensure that women are pushed towards particular jobs?

Wilhamenawonka Sun 11-Mar-18 06:58:01

Using your example of waking up with children i would argue that yes, it could very well be learned behaviour.
I spend a lot of time with young children of both sexes. Even at a young age the girls will help, eg clean up a mess or take plates to the kitchen. Boys will ignore it but crucially once I've taught them to do it they will.
Their parents often excuse behaviour with the comment that they're boys and that's what happens.
Socialisation starts very young and affects everything

speakout Sun 11-Mar-18 06:59:49

Why does the fact that women give birth and breastfeed mean that women are deemed to be responsible for lots of other types of care work that doesn't even require any breastfeeding?

I am not suggesting that these processes are responsible for determining a woman's role.- just examples of how sexes may differ.

And your argument about doctors does not hold water.
52% of registered GPs in the UK are female.

EmyRoo Sun 11-Mar-18 07:00:07

I also carried my children, I also breastfed for an unfashionable length of time, as a single parent, I went back to work but I have mostly raised my children. It’s societal - my brain is just as good as DC’s father’s; however, society accepts him not being there in a way it would not accept that of me.

Biological roles are the reason women were kept out of the workplace, denied access to education and treated as inferior for much of history. Biological roles are the reason women earn less over their lifetime, are the greater proportion of people in poverty, and have smaller pensions. There really is not any reason a man cannot look after his own child, clean a house, plan meals, all these things - apart from the fact they are unpaid labour and that is seen as women’s work.

Biological roles and the ensuing lack of financial parity, and for some women, downright inequality, is why many women are very vulnerable when it comes to controlling, abusive or unfaithful men. Society colludes in this vulnerability. If you argue that nurturing feelings are inherently female, and therefore women should do the unpaid caring roles, you too are colluding in this.

SusanBunch Sun 11-Mar-18 07:00:09

Only when we exist in a patriarchial society though.

We do live in a patriarchal society though.

*It's that which suppresses not any potential biological "norm". And I worry than we are in danger of thowing the baby out with the bathwater. In our efforts to "degender" then we also desex and remove the inherent biological differences. Take sleeping people.
When my babies were tiny I would wake at their every turn and whimper, attend to their needs. My OH while in the same proximity would sleep right through, wakening only to deafening cries. Is that learned behaviour?*

No, and I have never said that breastfeeding or giving birth is not a biological process. I think the sleep thing is also linked to that, ensuring that you wake up to feed your infant. It does also depend on how light a sleeper you are. Not all women wake at the slightest whimper and that does not make them biologically abnormal.

However, what I fail to understand is where you make the leap from 'I breastfed my children and felt a strong desire to nurture them' to 'women are naturally better at being nurses than men'. Why is it that all the stuff that women are so naturally good at just happens to be the stuff that is undervalued, underpaid and often not very mentally stimulating?

speakout Sun 11-Mar-18 07:02:52

OK it seems that this is actually a taboo topic, I am a 1950s housewife. I will back out.

SusanBunch Sun 11-Mar-18 07:07:18

And your argument about doctors does not hold water. 52% of registered GPs in the UK are female.

OK, within the hierarchy of the medical profession, being a GP is not very high up. That is where women are pushed and it offers more flexibility in terms of working hours, meaning that women can carry on doing all the work in caring for families without being too disrupted by their job.

Why don't you look up some stats on neurosurgeons and cardio-thoracic surgeons and then tell me how equally split it is between the sexes.

I used to work in the legal profession. There are more women entering the profession than men. Yet men make up the vast majority of partners and QCs. In lower status areas like family law, women far outnumber men. In the higher status areas like corporate law, men far outnumber women. Surprisingly, corporate pays much better than family law. Is that again because women are more suited to family law (although I definitely don't need to use my breasts to draft a divorce petition)? Or is it because women are constantly pushed towards that area and given the message that this is where they belong?

Ifailed Sun 11-Mar-18 07:10:13

Is women's work like caring and nurturing undervalued? Yes of course.

Clearly only women can carry and give birth, and until very recently (biologically) only women can feed young babies. Obviously women who were unable to give birth did not pass on their genes, the question is whether the ability and desire to care for a young child is also a genetic trait that many women possess? I expect so, unless the role of mothers who were unwilling/unable to care was taken up by other women (wet-nurse?) their behaviour would be less likely to be passed on as their infant's mortality would rise?

Wilhamenawonka Sun 11-Mar-18 07:10:17

I was also a 1950s housewife and happy with it. However i can't ignore the fact that that's partly because I've been socialised that way.
Wouldn't change a thing. Feminism is partly about having that choice, but understanding how you came to make that choice is also important.

speakout Sun 11-Mar-18 07:10:45

susan- just before I go- I totally get that.

My career was in a very male dominated sector. I was the only female in a department of 120 males.
I have had a boy and girl child.
I have noticed differences in them from an early age.
I was hoping for a reasoned discussion.
Not to be unfortunately.

SusanBunch Sun 11-Mar-18 07:11:48

OK it seems that this is actually a taboo topic, I am a 1950s housewife. I will back out.

Fair enough. It's just that in your OP, you seemed to think that this was something revolutionary that nobody had ever given any thought to. Feminists have written about this for decades and decades. You may want to read about how the innate roles that you believe exist were used to deny women even being able to vote for a parliamentary candidate. They were used to explain why women could not be doctors, could not be lawyers, could not obtain a university degree despite getting the highest marks in the finals exams. That was all based on the notion of men and women occupying 'separate spheres' and fulfilling their predestined biological roles.

Nobody has attacked you on the thread. They have just pointed out the danger in this way of thinking.

splendide Sun 11-Mar-18 07:12:23

It’s not taboo at all - people are right here in this thread talking about it!

I do think it’s interesting but it’s so difficult to unpick the societal expectations.

I don’t think you’ve really clarified what you think about the nursing thing though? Do you think that the big majority of women is down to biology?

SusanBunch Sun 11-Mar-18 07:13:47

I was hoping for a reasoned discussion. Not to be unfortunately.

What was not reasoned about it? The fact that people did not agree with you? Is a discussion not where people air different viewpoints? If it had descended into swearing and name-calling, I would agree, but I can't see anything on here that is not reasoned.

Patodp Sun 11-Mar-18 07:15:55

Nursing is horrendously under paid and highly stressful and the long hours, night shifts, wreck havoc on your health.
If it were higher paid and seen as "prestigious" them more men would probably do it. But men don't choose it. So you're left with the women pickin up these sorts of jobs.

Waking up in the night for your own baby crying is completely different to nursing so I'm not sure why you're comparing the two.

Patodp Sun 11-Mar-18 07:16:40

Just seen the op has flounced How weird confused

MySockIsWetAgain Sun 11-Mar-18 07:16:59

OP, noone is saying this is taboo or that you're a 50s housewife. Please stay and discuss. The PPs (I agree with them) are not saying "there are no biological differences" and "the answer to your question is no".
They are saying "your question cannot be answered rigorously yet; let us fix the world and answer it in 100 years".

Patodp Sun 11-Mar-18 07:31:18

SusanBunch answered it all in the first post.

AccidentalBumming Sun 11-Mar-18 07:36:58

Well, Im a SAHM and I get riled about the 1950s housewife shit thrown constantly at me and other SAHMs - I even get this from my own sisters. Feel like I have to justify and explain.

Why? Being at home has easily been the best decision for us as a family. I am raising my chidren myself and I am pleased I was able to.

I think a lot of the time it's just jealousy speaking, really.

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